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Early California Letters Collection

September 28, 2022

Close-up of hand-written letter from the Early California Letters collection

An exciting new collection can now be found in The Claremont Colleges Digital Library, which provides access to digitized and born-digital historical and visual resources collections created both by and for The Claremont Colleges community.

Close-up of hand-written letter from the Early California Letters collectionThe Early California Letters collection offers researchers over 100 letters originating from various writers in California dating from 1773 to 1856 to explore. This time period covers the Spanish Colonial and Mexican Period as well as the beginning of U.S. statehood, giving a unique look at early California and pre-statehood activities. A transcription or translation accompanies a handful of the letters, however the bulk exist only in manuscript form.

The most frequently occurring writer in this collection (with 16 letters) is Spanish soldier, California pioneer, founder of Los Angeles and twice Spanish colonial governor José Dario Argüello. His letters dating from 1793 to 1794 were written while he served as the commandant of the Presidio of Monterey from 1791 to 1796, while those from 1806 were written during his time at the Presidio of San Francisco.

These letters, along with other materials, were donated to Special Collections at The Claremont Colleges Library in 1964 by William F. McPherson, an Orange County rancher, scholar and collector. Now in digital form, we are thrilled that the Early California Letters will be even more accessible to researchers, both on a local and global scale.

Have questions about the Early California Letters or Special Collections? Then email or call (909) 607-3977.